World Bank "success" undermines Haitian democracy

part 2 of 3

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec. 20 – A $61 million dollar, eight-year World Bank community development project implemented across half of Haiti has successfully repaired roads, built schools and distributed livestock. At the same time, however, the Project for Participatory Community Development (PRODEP) – Projet de développement communautaire participatif, has also helped undermine an already weak state, damaged Haiti’s “social tissue,” and carried out what could be called “social and political reengineering,” raised questions of waste and corruption, and contributed to Haiti’s growing status as an “NGO Republic” by creating new non-governmental organizations (NGOs). [see Story 1 for background]

Haiti Grassroots Watch took a look at projects in and around Bainet. All visits and interviews in the Southeast took place in August, 2011.

According to PADF, PRODEP funded a total of 60 projects in the commune of Bainet – six in the small coastal town itself, and six in each of Bainet’s nine communal sections.

HGW visited two in town. The first, the water purification project run by OFB (Òganizasyon Fanm Bene or Organization of Bainet Women) in downtown Bainet, and financed with a grant of 752,320 gourdes or about $19,000, was never operational, according to observers and an OFB member who asked that her name not be used.

Building housing the water purification project. It has never functioned.

“PRODEP/PADF gave us a bunch of machinery that never worked,” she said unlocking the storefront.  Inside, dust-covered machinery filled the room. Plastic bags that were supposed to be filled with purified water lay in flat heaps on the floor.

Nearby, the “OPA-net” cyber-café, was also locked up tight. Run by OPA (Oganizasyon Peyizan an Aksyon or Organization Peasants in Action) and funded with almost $20,000 according to World Bank documents, OPA-net has been shut for nearly three years now. Dusty screens, towers, chairs, desks and a dirty photocopy machine fill the tiny rented space.

A view of most of the cyber-café's equipment.

OPA coordinator Saint-Gladys Fleuranville said the project came to halt on January 12, 2010, the day of the deadly earthquake, because the dish connecting the center to the Internet was displaced.

“It was working very well until then,” he said. “PADF has a Reinforcement Program that will help us. We are waiting for them because this is the only cyber-café in the entire community.”

Asked about the water and cyber-café projects, Rincher Fleurent-Fils, coordinator of the PRODEP/PADF technical bureau in Jacmel, acknowledged that some ventures had “a few problems” that still needed to be addressed, such as the cyber-café’s internet connection. “And,” he said, “they couldn’t pay their bills.”

Fleurent-Fils’ supervisor, Arsel Jerome who oversees the PRODEP program for PADF in five of Haiti’s departments, said he was aware that both the water purification project and the cyber-café projects were closed down.

“The way those projects began was a little amateurish,” Jerome admitted. So much so that 119 of the 700 or so projects PADF oversaw needed some kind of “correction” or “reinforcement,” he noted.

PADF's PRODEP director, Arsel Jerome.

HGW visited four more projects in Bainet’s 9th communal section, Anba Grigri. Anba Grigri sits on the other side of the Bainet River along a bumpy, muddy and rocky road. The hamlet and surrounding hills are home to about 10,000 people who have no electricity, access to clean drinking water or modern sanitation. Farmers grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, sorghum and herd cows and goats; coastal residents fish.  For weeks at a time, villagers from Anba Grigri cannot reach Bainet because of the rain-bloated river. After Hurricane Isaac passed over Haiti in August 2012, the community was cut off to the east for three months. 

One of the most infamous PRODEP grantees is the fishing project. The OD9S (Oganizasyon pou Devlòpman 9vyèm Seksyon or Organization for the Development of the 9thSection) got $17,500 to buy boat engines, netting, line, coolers, a generator and batteries.

Almost immediately, the organization split over how the money should be used. The fishermen prevailed, buying new engines and other materials that helped them go further out to sea and catch more fish. But there were accusations of faked receipts with inflated costs for materials and theft. The resulting fish are still being sold at regular market price, according to an OD9S member who spoke to HGW on camera but asked that his name not be used.

One of the boats built with the PRODEP money.

The fisherman also admitted that at least one engine and some of the money meant for maintenance “disappeared,” and that other gear had been lost due to “natural causes.” 

“We hope PRODEP-PADF can help us so we can buy more equipment,” he added.

The Community Store of Bainet sits on the main road that runs through Anba Grigri. It stocks the same, mostly imported items that jam shelves in many small stores or “boutiques” throughout Haiti: canned goods, rice, beans, spaghetti, cooking oil, tomato paste, crackers, rum and other products. The Community Store sells its products at the same price as other local vendors and doesn’t receive much traffic.  During a HGW visit, store manager Delva Henry asked a friend to “buy” something for HGW’s camera.

Delva Henry and friends hang out on the porch of the store.

“There are a lot of other stores in our communal section,” the store manager admitted. He said he was thinking of “writing a proposal” to ask for more money so that he could better stock his store, which he runs with his wife.

Community members reported that the store is no different than other markets. 

“It’s a private business,” according to François Brunel, a member of OJDB (Oganizasyon Jen pou Devlòpman Bene or Organization of Bainet Youth for Development). Brunel and others reported that the store offers no credit or discounts to local residents. “It’s a success because it exists and it is functioning, but they say you have to be a member of their organization to get a little credit. I think all members of the community should benefit.”

Nearby, the Coordination of Bainet Woman (Kòdinasyon Fanm Bene or KOFAB) received a grant to set up a corn mill. HGW noted that it was up and running and appeared to be frequented by members of the community.

The mill in action.

“Before we had the mill, we had to thrash corn and sorghum with a pestle… or walk a long way,” said an elderly woman. “The mill has made things easier.”

But that’s not to say that KOFAB runs it.

“The project is a success because as you can see, it is employing me!” explained Fabien Jean André Paul who said he manages the mill business, rather than KOFAB. “From time to time I meet with the women and give them a report.”

Mill manager Fabien Jean André Paul.

Another project also produced results: goats. A peasant organization received a grant to buy goats, which reproduced enough so that almost every member of Mouvman Peyizan Kay Anwò (Houses on the Hill Peasant Movement) now has a goat.

“Before, not too many of our members had goats. Now almost everyone has a goat because our organization got the project funding,” said member Alezi Jean Bastien. “Life has improved a little bit for people because the goats are worth 2,000 or 3,000 gourdes (about $50-75) each.”

Assessments and Evaluations

PRODEP’s track record in and around Bainet is not as good as the “over 70 percent success” touted by PRODEP and PADF. Two of the Bainet projects have been closed for years, and of the six Anba Grigri projects, two – 33 percent – were barely operating.

“The projects didn’t work out the way they were supposed to,” said COPRODEP community council member Emile Theodore. “The majority of them have disappeared. You can’t find a trace of them. There are others that are run by a husband and wife, like the community store. As for the fish project, a little group of people is running that one also.”

The main reason, Theodore and others say, is that once the money is disbursed, there is little follow-up and verification.

“In some cases, it takes a while for that [supervision] to happen,” admitted Jerome. He denied knowing of any cases of corruption. “Let’s just say that sometimes there are administrative problems.”

But in the evaluations posted online, in the literature distributed at news conferences, and in interviews, PRODEP and PADF officials made no mention of any irregularities.

The most recent documents available online call PRODEP performances “satisfactory” with no more detail, although a 2010 document does note that evaluation had been a “main challenge.” But if “over 70 percent” of the projects were “successful,” by deduction somewhere between 20 and 30 percent were not, meaning that funding for some 400 projects – over $6 million – has been wasted.

PRODEP and World Bank reports do not mention whether or not people accused of corruption or waste were brought to justice or held accountable.

Despite numerous promises, HGW never received a copy of the PRODEP final evaluation that was completed in June 2012.

What HGW did discover was that the apparent lack of monitoring, verification and evaluation are not unique to Haiti. In their survey of dozens of so-called “Community Driven Development” (CDD) programs around the world, World Bank economists Mansuri and Rao noted “a pervasive inattention to monitoring systems.” They found that only 40 percent of CDD projects they surveyed had any kind of monitoring and evaluation at all.

“The majority of project managers participating in the survey stated that the Bank’s operation policies do not provide incentives for effective monitoring and evaluation,” the authors wrote.

With these kinds of numbers, does PRODEP have the right to call its project a “success”?


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